Ask a Tech-Savvy Teacher: Use a Cheap Android Phone as an “Android Touch” Platform (Part 2: Shopping)
Recently, I answered an email to the “Ask a Tech-Savvy Teacher” page on the NCCE blog about finding a cost-effective “Android Touch” to use without a cell phone plan. I suggested repurposing an old or used phone as an Android Touch, or, finding a cheap pre-paid Android phone as a potential replacement.
So… what am I looking for?!
A few days ago, I started the search for a device. I had some criteria to help guide my search.
First, no used phones. I am not interested in purchasing someone’s castaway goods, even if this is a good-to-great option in other cases. I am looking for something I can purchase as new or at least factory refurbished so I can experience the new phone smell.
Second, a relatively recent version of Android. I am under no illusions that I will get the most recent version of Android (5.0 or 5.1 “Lollipop” for those that are interested), however, it is reasonable that a phone should come with or be upgradeable to Android 4.4 “KitKat.” Or, for the right phone, 4.1, 4.2 or 4.3 (all “Jellybean”), or even 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” are also fine alternatives. There are a number of inexpensive options with Android 2.3, but, that is too dated and won’t run recent apps.
Third, a phone from a recognizable brand. I have no problem purchasing devices from upstarts or brands popular outside the United States, however, this comes with some risk. I have seen some excellent deals on cell phones imported from China or Hong Kong that would be great, higher-end options here for little more than $100, but, I am looking for familiar goods here that could be easily found on a popular United States online merchant.
Fourth, I am looking for a phone that takes a microSD card. To be a good Android Touch, I would want to store media.
Last, I am looking for a budget option. There are excellent phones for $100-$200 that are available new off contract that would be excellent choices here. But, I want something that a parent wouldn’t mind handing to their slippery-fingered tween or a traveler wouldn’t mind losing if or breaking on a commute or traveling overseas.
I utilized two different strategies here.
First, Amazon.com provides a number of excellent tools here! I utilize two top 100 lists, the top 100 rated prepaid phones and the top 100 best selling pre-paid phones. Remember, it doesn’t matter if the phone is meant for any carrier, including the big four (Sprint or AT&T) or a smaller, lesser known name (like Boost Mobile or TextNow) because you won’t be using this as a phone! Once you have the phone in hand, put it in airplane mode and turn on wifi. This is an Android Touch!
Second, I scoured DealNews.com looking for deals. I have a specific strategy here that narrows this down just Android phones:
In the past, I have seen new, well-reviewed midrange phones from sellers like BestBuy for well under $50. On this day, I found several options, all under $100.
In the end, I decided on two different phones, each with a different strategy.
First, I wanted a very cheap low-end phone so I can test the “how low can you go” strategy. After 30 minutes of research and comparison, I purchased the Samsung Galaxy Centura for TracPhone form Amazon. The phone is a ridiculous $9.99 and had mostly positive reviews (editorial note: It appears this phone is no long being offered new at this price… again it pays to shop around!). A look at the specs suggest that it is limited in nearly every way but it does have an microSD card slot, Bluetooth, and what seems like decent reviews from across the Internet-verse. It does seem to be limited to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) but for $10, who cares? I plan to slip in a 32gb card when it arrives, making it roughly a 30gb Android Touch. I don’t have high hopes for this but am curious if you can get away with it… a true ten-dollar bet.
Second, I was looking for a phone with middle range specs. I searched a lot longer here because of the number of shaddy operators in this space.
I have read excellent reviews of the Moto G and Moto E from Motorola. These devices are available for a reasonable price new and unlocked ($100-$200), however, I hoped to find a cheaper version no matter the carrier. I was tempted by this Moto G for Verizon Prepaid, however, if you read the fine print, this is “Grade C” used, which means it is probably in rough shape. Still… it was under $40!
Ultimately, I found an excellent deal on DealNews for a a refurbished Moto G from a smaller pre-paid provider, for just $13.99, plus shipping. I was also required to buy a month of service. All in, with the phone, shipping and the month of service, I paid just over $40. That is incredibly good deal!Plus, I had a prepaid credit card I received recently as a gift, so, this makes this an even better investment!
It pays to shop around in this case, but, of course that is an investment of your time. If you wanted to purchase one outright without the hassle of a service or shopping around, Amazon features the Moto G for Boost Mobile for around $80, which is also an incredibly good bargain for this phone.
The specs on the Moto G are impressive. It features 8gb of onboard storage, a quad core processor, nice cameras and a microSD card slot. It also features a 720p display, which I suspect might be useful to play videos on my Android Touch.
For just over $50, I purchased not one, but two different candidates for my Android Touch project. I expect both to arrive in the next week and I’ll keep you up to date on my progress!